Liberal Arts – Yet another late contenda’ for my favorite movie of 2012! – Directed by Josh Radnor

220px-Liberal_Arts_FilmPoster Here’s another movie I hadn’t really heard of until I started flipping through the indie movies section on demand, and remembered I had a coupon for a free movie. I’m not a really big fan of Josh Radnor, to be totally honest with you. I think How I Met Your Mother is a decent, passable show at best, but its certainly HIGHLY over rated and doesn’t deserve all the popularity it has these days. It should have ended seasons ago, it’s mostly uninspired stuff that has been done better with shows like Friends, which was obviously what the show tried to copy. So if this movie didn’t have Elizabeth Olsen’s name attached to it, I would have easily passed on this one. Much like Randy Quaid is the GOOD Quaid, Elizabeth Olsen is the GOOD Olsen, yes she’s related to those pill-popping too skinny untalented Olsen sisters we don’t hear too much about anymore (thank god). Surprisingly, she has been good in every movie that I’ve seen her in so far. Now, two of those movies I linked you to there were, how you say, not so good. Silent House in particular wasn’t all that special, but her performance was the best part, just like in the incredibly odd but you should probably see anyways Martha Marcy May Marlene. The other one with the super dumb name – Peace Love and MISunderstanding, see what they did there? Ha ha! A play on words! Everyone laugh! was only decent because of her and yet another actress that I love, Catherine Keener. But the bottom line here is, kid’s got talent. Like, a lot of it. Like, the best young person to come along in movies since Carey Mulligan was in An Education a couple years ago. Them’s big words, and if you haven’t already seen that movie, first of all shame on you, and second, as per usual, for gods sake, turn this review off this lesser movie and go rent that first. It was one of the best movies of 2009, and she got compared to Aubrey Hepburn often in the reviews for that movie. AUDREY HEPBURN people! If you don’t know who she is or at least know of her legacy, then I will say GOOD DAY to you sir!

downloaded That’s Elizabeth, and yes, she’s very pretty. But with her in movies, it’s a lot more than that…well, ‘cept maybe for Silent House where she wears a low cut tanktop the entire movie and the camera is often centered on her boobs. But hey, I’m not the director, I didn’t do it! He just knew he had a kinda lame story so he was workin with what he had. Elizabeth is way more than just someone who can fill out a tanktop however, and this movie showcases her talent the best of all her films so far. She plays an entirely too smart 19 year old named um…Zibby. Yeah, for real, that’s her name. Zibby. Zib Zab. But, moving on, she meets Jesse, who is 35 and is working rather unhappily in New York, when he comes to Ohio to honor his favorite professor who is retiring, played by Richard Jenkins. Now, if Elizabeth’s name on the cover wouldn’t have quite sold me, it was Jenkin’s name that ultimately did. This guy can do no wrong. He was absolutely meant to play a role like this, a mentor/advisor role to Radnor’s character, because man, just look at the guy. He just has that trustworthy, down-to-earth face that makes you want to be his friend. Every role I’ve seen him is fantastic, from the hilarious turn he had in Cabin In The Woods (another one of my favorite movies from this year, by the way), to yet another movie that is far better than this one, called The Visitor. Hell, he is even great in his bit part in the (I’ll even say, underrated) movie Friends With Benefits.  The Visitor was where I first noticed this excellent actor, and, like An Education, it is also a far superior movie to this one. So Jenkins plays the retiring professor, and of course, every scene he is in is fantastic, particularly when the plot gets going and he again tries to fulfill the mentor role with Jesse.

14LIBERAL_SPAN-articleLarge So this movie could easily fall into the typical ol’ bag of older dude falls for a girl who is too young, gets some sort of life revelation from banging her, they are better or worse off in the end, and scene. This movie doesn’t go that route, and that’s why I call it one of the best of 2012. It takes some unexpected turns with this story that we have probably all seen before, and that is why it’s memorable, and you should check it out. So Jesse meets Zib Zab because her parents are good friends of Professor Hoberg (Jenkins), and it’s immediate from the start they have a connection – but we aren’t given the traditional “meetcute” here, which is good. They just happen to have a decent talk over dinner. I also have to mention someone else in this movie, who also steals the two scenes he is in – Zac Efron and his character, Nat. Now, I like this guy, to be honest with you. People be hatin’ on my boy Efron, but Charlie St. Cloud wasn’t a half bad movie at all, and he is absolutely hilarious as the…I don’t even know what to call him. He seems like a big pothead, some weirdo that just hangs out on benches late at night, and Jesse happens to stumble upon him as he’s wandering campus, but he only drinks water. He’s so much more than a stereotypical pothead or “mystical” figure in a movie, even Jesse himself proclaims “I’m not even sure if you are real” later on, and hell, I’m not even sure if he was. But he steals every scene he is in, and I’d even say this is his best role yet – even though he’s only around for about 10 minutes. So it is Nat that gets Jesse to a college party where he, of course, stumbles on Zib Zab again, and the friendship is on.

But it isn’t a romance right away, not at all. They have a lot to talk about, they are both passionate about a lot of things, him mostly books, her mostly music because of this “great music survey class I took last summer”. Jesse, much like many of us, myself very much included, is still 19 at heart. Jenkins’ character flat out says that he is later in the movie. My Dad has told me this before as well. While we are “grown-up”, we never really want to become adults, it just happens. So of course Jesse has a natural attraction to Zib Zab, and not just because she’s beautiful either – this is another thing that the movie does well that you might not expect. Their attraction increases because of the letters they write to each other. Zibble Zib decides to give him a mixtape (HA!) for his trip back to New York and her address, and demands that she write him a handwritten letter. This, frankly, is awesome. I used to have a penpal or two in my day and I’ll admit it, in this technological age no one does stuff like this anymore, we text or facebook message or whatever, and sure that’s all very nice and convenient, but it’s also very impersonal. I don’t think a single text was sent in this movie. And I love that about it. The scenes with the letters they are writing are brilliant, yes its a montage, no I didn’t mind because it’s on such a higher level than most romantic comedies – though I don’t even consider this movie one of those. Their discussion on music is great, and makes me miss the great conversations that I used to have with some people, and maybe the ones that I try to force on others – of course things like this don’t often happen like they do in the movies, but I loved it anyways.

Liberal_Arts So these letters escalate and eventually it is (naturally, being that she is 19 years old) Zibbits that decides to make the first move, and he is on the road to see her again. Things take quite an unexpected turn here, at least they did for me – and this is why I will still think about this movie days later. I actually hesitate to throw down a gauntlet such as this – but parts of this movie actually reminded me of Lost In Translation. I’m not sure if it’s possible for me to throw down a bigger gauntlet (man, wish I had a pair of gauntlets, how sweet would that be, I mean seriously) than that, because that is my favorite movie of all time. #1, no other contenders. This movie isn’t on that caliber – but damn if it doesn’t make a good case to be compared to it. Older man strikes up an unlikely friendship with a whip-smart (always loved that term) younger girl, could be romance, could be not. The way this movie could have gone were it to fall into cliche and the way it ultimately does is really a thing to behold. I’m not going to reveal much more, hell I might have already revealed too much already, but I will say that what happens between these two is exactly what should be, and while the movie hangs on a little too long toward the end, I think it could have clocked in at about 85 minutes instead of 92 – it doesn’t hang on like, Return of The King style where it ends 656 different times, but still, some stuff that happens at the very end is unnecessary. But the resolution between these two does not, it is excellent.

Liberal+Arts+Portraits+2012+Sundance+Film+5qBrVuHF1Lsl I’m gushing a little bit about this one and am close to being in ramble territory, but a few more things – that’s my boy Jenkins by the way, I put him on here cuz man, how could you not trust that face? You tell me you don’t want to be buds with that guy and play some golf, he just rules. But the supporting cast in this movie it consists of the great Allison Janney, who has a scene that needs to be seen to be believe with Radnor in the latter half of the movie, and John Magaro, who I had never heard of before this movie. He plays Dean, a troubled kid who could have, very easily, been what Jesse became in college. He loves the same books that Jesse does, and he is obviously a romantic that finds so much passion in literature. The scenes with these two are almost pointless, to be honest. But you know what, it doesn’t matter. In fact, Dean becomes a maguffin toward the very end, but we don’t care, because the lines that Jesse has with these two are excellent, and, much like another classic from this year, Perks of Being a Wallflower, some of it really makes you think. This is not Red Dawn, this is not escapist fun, this is a movie that really makes you think about things. And just like we need the movies where stuff blows up real good, we probably need movies like this even more.

I haven’t even gotten to some of the other themes being kicked around in this movie, particularly the idea of having a deep love for books, music, just, ART, man. Radnor obviously has a soft spot for a good book, a good piece of music, etc. He directed AND wrote this bad boy, so there has to be shades of him in here. Just, just watch it man. Especially if you are a book nerd much like myself, if you’ve ever had grand dreams of becoming a writer, if you want to be the next Hemmingway (minus the committing suicide part…actually hell even if you want to include this part, watch this movie, maybe it’ll cheer you up and change your mind), if there is something in life that you are truly passionate about in life, then just check this movie out. It’s a thinker, and it’s a damn good one at that.

 

The verdict – 4-stars

 

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The Vicious Kind – Adam Scott playing a crazy guy?! Say it isn’t so! – Directed by Lee Toland Krieger

220px-Vicious_kind Alright, it’s time to do an obscure movie review, something I might make a feature of this here blog dealie, a weekly obscure movie, if the people so demand it. Because man, do I know a lot of em – people AND obscure movies! I came across this little gem thanks to my indie friend who also told me about Take This Waltz, which of course we all know I loved. This movie was made a couple years ago, but since no one (criminally) heard about it then, I just saw it yesterday. And wow, what a tweest! This was a different sort of role for my boy Adam Scott to play, although the sarcastic nature of most everything he says comes across quite well in this one – but it also comes across in the form of someone who is actually pretty disturbed and messed up. Which always makes for a fun movie, amiright?! And this one, while not QUITE as epic as I had expected within the first 20 minutes or so, is still something to check out, for his performance alone, but also for – and here’s a REAL tweest for ya’ll – but apparently, *GASP* Brittany Snow, who I usually can’t stand, can actually act! Who knew?! Mind blown.

So the premise of this one is that Adam Scott plays Caleb, the brother to Peter (played by the forgettable-but-has-a-cool-super-villain-name Alex Frost), who has an insanely hot girlfriend Emma, played by, like I said, the surprisingly good Brittany Snow. The opening scenes show us pretty much all there is to Caleb’s character and these scenes are excellent – he gives his baby brother a speech on how all women are whores and essentially good for nothing, and that the way he met Emma (essentially stealing her from one of his frat brothers) shows that she is exactly the same and he needs to be careful. However, amidst all of this confidence and bravado from him, before his brother walks back from the bathroom to sit with him, Caleb nearly bursts into tears for no particular reason. Something is amiss, not all is well in Caleb town. A lesser actor than Scott could have easily ruined a role like this. But, despite mostly playing in comedies until this, this movie shows us that dude has RANGE yo. He still plays that same sarcastic a**hole that you would probably secretly want to be your friend, just like he does in Parks and Recreation (although that character is a bit more nerdy) except there is a definite violent edge to this one – and that’s a very cool thing.

12vicious_CA0-articleLarge So the movie is basically about these two, with Caleb meeting Emma early on in the movie and having her sit in the middle next to him in his small truck while they roadtrip back home so that Peter – can I just call him supervillain from now on, to at least make him somewhat interesting? I can? Ok, supervillain it is. So supervillain is heading back to see his Dad for Thanksgiving, something that Caleb will have absolutely no part of. Even though he and his father Donald live in the same town, he hasn’t seen him in years, and pretty much spits out his name whenever he has to say it. Obviously something is also amiss there. Well, almost instantaneously Caleb is intrigued by Emma. In his defense, I’m not sure who wouldn’t be. Brittany Snow hasn’t really been an actress that’s “done” it for me, usually because she’s so bad at delivering her lines and general suckitude on screen, but for some reason she is intriguing in this movie – its definitely in the eyes, and the fact that they gave her that jet black hair for this one. Which is good, because she NEEDS to be intriguing for this movie. If she was just a run of the mill girl and didn’t have that whole, unattainable punk rock chic that some men lust after look about her, well then we wouldn’t get why Caleb is initially interested in her. But because of her look – and, here’s my surprise with Snow’s performance – the soft spoken manner that she has, the almost too polite but still charming way she has about her, we get it. At least, until he takes it entirely too far, which he does – movie is called The Vicious Kind after all.

the_vicious_kind01 Since this movie is really just about four characters, the last character in this movie is Donald, played by the excellent J.K. Simmons, or as I always call him, J. Jonah Jameson. This role is much the same role that J.K. has played in a bunch of other movies, the safe father figure type, similar to what he played in the incredibly (and I mean IN-CREDIBLY) over rated Juno. Or is he? What makes this movie work is some of the revelations toward the end – we know from the start that something is off about Caleb, and, since all of our parents f*** us up, its just to what extent they do said effing up, we sorta suspect that ol’ Donnie might have had something to do with it – but maybe not, he just seems like the fun dirty old man Dad that some of us would just love to have, with great lines like the one after Emma tells him that her mom turned to drinking and is essentially drunk all day, and he quips back with “she single?”. Stuff like that, he just seems like a sweet, lonely older man. I won’t ruin much for you but uh, some unexpected stuff happens towards the end that I think you will buy into, I certainly did, because of J.K.’s subdued performance.

vicious-kind-1 So as expected, the intrigue soon turns into infatuation and then eventually to obsession, and not just because she’s hot – Emma is almost the spittin’ image of the girl that just left Caleb, someone he obviously loved, and she cheated on him and left him recently. It didn’t uh…it didn’t go over well with Caleb. Dude can’t sleep, smokes like a chimney, and there is this anger that is always on the surface and threatens to spill over on to everyone. He just looks like a guy who could snap at any moment – I think this picture portrays this well. That’s a testament to Scott’s acting chops – I didn’t expect him to be THIS good in this movie, but he really was. I guess that’s probably why it won some awards n such. But anyways, so the unraveling really comes to a head when he is caught taking pictures of her in the backyard of his father’s house – creeeeeeepy, right ladies? And is nearly shot by his own Dad – who we learn he hasn’t spoken to in about eight years. There is an incredibly intense and disturbing scene with Caleb and Emma at the grocery store, followed by him breaking down to tears not soon after. Dude is unstable, and obviously has A LOT of issues to deal with with this obsession with Emma.

And things start to come to a head – as usual I’m not going to spoil everything for you, watch it, it’s good, you’ll like it. I think I’ve established this movie is about an obsession, and I’ll admit that some of the ending stuff pissed me off – knock a star off my rating type of pissing me off even. Some cliched stuff happens that frankly should NOT happen in a movie that is supposed to be keeping you on your toes like this one. HOWEVER – the magic of this movie is that, when these cliched thangs was goin’ down, I started to realize that this movie was about a lot more than just the obsession Caleb had with his boring brother’s super hot girlfriend – it’s actually about family, and the title is relevant to quite a few things in this movie. The good news is that someone escapes from this family intact, he might actually not become “The Vicious Kind” like 2/3rds of his family has become. I’m not going to tell you who, but I think it might surprise you like it did me. And Emma might just be as Vicious as everyone else, we really aren’t sure. It’s good stuff, and it wouldn’t work if it weren’t for the actors. Supervillain isn’t given much to do here except to be clueless, but that’s fine, this movie isn’t about him, it ends up being about his entire family. And that’s why this movie worked for me- because it ended up being an entirely different bird than I first expected. That’s a good thing. Myself, this guy, I’ve seen A LOT of movies. Probably too many. So I can usually see what’s happening, which is why I get pissed off toward the end of a lot of movies, and I was prepared to write this one off and actually yelled “Ok! This movie has lost me completely!” during one scene as I watched this with my indie friend – but it brought me back by becoming about something bigger than the obsession. That’s an impressive feat for a little indie movie that could like this to do. It might be for that reason alone that you should check it out.

The Verdict – 3star

Wreck-It Ralph – A wonderful movie for kids and big kids alike – directed by Rich Moore

wreck it ralph cover I actually had to see this one twice before I decided to review it. Not because it isn’t fantastic, it most assuredly is. Just because I wasn’t really sure HOW to review it. What to say about a kid’s movie that doesn’t entirely seem to have a point except to charm the damn pants off of you (which it does)? Well, upon the second viewing I discovered that there WERE some messages this movie had to throw at us as big kids, or kids, or whoever the hell you want to take with you to see this movie, because everyone should see it. Because it’s wonderful, but I already told you that in my headline now, didn’t I? Before I get into the plot of this one, which, with a kids movie often takes a backseat to the whimsical characters you will see on screen and this movie is no different, I have to say something. We are in a renaissance of children’s movies, my friends. A true golden age. Of course it all started with PIXAR and the insane mad geniuses they have working over there – Up is not only arguably the best animated film that has ever been made, it’s also one of the best films ever MADE, PERIOD. Yes it is in my top 10, yes I will review it someday. But c’mon now – you got Tangled, which was the actual last official Disney movie before this one. You got Tintin, which was much like an animated Indiana Jones (the GOOD Indiana Jones…), no small feat. How to Train Your Dragon, Secret World of Arriety, Despicable Me which I have seen well over 50 times because it was my go-to movie during my short lived career at a video store, and to the lesser extents, your Megaminds and Loraxes even. They are all fantastic in their own right, and if you have a kid, you got an excuse to go see all these cinematic greats, but I’d go see them anyways. Wreck it Ralph continues this long tradition of this kids movie renaissance we are in, and you know what, it’s also in the upper echelon of classic children movies with Despicable Me (which is getting a completely unnecessary sequel next year, but that’s neither here nor there…) and Tangled – it’s really that good. Here’s why.

wreck-it-ralph So at the heart of this movie is these two characters, who are both incredibly charming and you will walk out of the theater loving them both. I think this is John C. Reillys’ first animated movie, and he is just about the most diverse guy in cinema. He has played in two absolutely hilarious movies with his real life pal Will Ferrell, he’s played a lunatic criminal (in a movie named well…Criminal), he’s played the sadsack loser with the last shot at love, his roles have really run the gamut, and that’s commendable that he branches out like that and is willing to try new things. Hell, dude even sings a bit. This movie is pretty much a paycheck for him, just like any animated movies with big voice talent are, but he does a great job of actually channeling that same sadsack loser that he played in Cyrus. Except this time he plays it as a video game bad guy, sort of like a different take on donkey kong, where the mario in this is Fix It Felix, which is the name of the game, and is also voiced by someone I usually don’t like very much, Jack McBrayer. Jack plays the exact same role in everything he has ever done and his mostly annoying Felix is more of the same. But hey, name of the movie isn’t Fix It Felix, which is good. So Ralph is a bad guy, but he is not “bad, guy” just like Zangief from Street Fighter II says of himself in the alcoholics anonymous of bad guy meetings toward the beginning of the movie. He just wants some friends, wants to be accepted for being a bad guy. And herein lies one of the themes, however simple it may be, of the movies – everyone’s need for acceptance. Hey, this isn’t Shakespeare, its a PG kids movie, right? It doesn’t need to be Shakespeare if you have a lot of great, original ideas.

images And this movie has those great ideas in spades.  A whole bucket of em even. This movie takes all kinds of ideas we thought of as nerdy little kids – like, what DOES happen at night after the arcade closes? For a particularly dorky kid with me, who actually made up back stories for each character in Street Fighter II the first time I played it and who wrote dialogue between Sub Zero and Scorpion the first time I played the first Mortal Kombat, this was a fully legitimate idea in my head. And Rich Moore, who actually directed a lot of awesome Futurama episodes and some incredibly memorable – some might even say some of the best – Simpsons episodes, was definitely in the same vein of dorks that I was. We might even have hung out and played Magic together in high school if he had went to my school. I can’t give him all the credit of course, the writers were obviously dorks too, but hey, he co-wrote! Anyways, the idea that there is a “Game Central Station” where all of these characters converge is brilliant, and the addition of Q*Bert, which was and always will be a classic game, into the mix of this, as well as a ton of other video game character cameos, make this a movie that any self respecting video gamer absolutely has to see. I yelled “Awesome!” At some of the obscure references there just for us nerds too, like the “AERITH LIVES!” emblazoned on the wall of the subway terminal, or the exclamation point that Ralph pulls out of a lost and found box (which was from Metal Gear Solid, since I realize a lot of you NON nerds read this, too). This is a movie for everyone, it has enough silly jokes like turning Ralph into a taffy monster and enough sight gags to keep the kiddies entertained, and more than enough old school references and charming little additions, such as the Oreo warriors yelling “Oreeee-o! Ooooo!” to keep us kids at heart enraptured as well. It’s just great stuff.

Wreck--Ralph-Sugar-Rush-Characters Speaking of charm, this little brat here oozes it in this movie. I’ll admit that in the previews she seemed annoying, and having Sarah Silverman’s somewhat grating voice didn’t seem like it would help her case – but man, does she ever grow on you. Vanellope is the other main character who is much like Ralph, she is a misfit toy, she is a loner, and just like Ralph, she longs for acceptance from her peers in the video game world. I’m trying to make this kids movie sound mature I realize, but hey, gotta dig around for some themes here, I want you to see this movie after all! Naturally these two will end up being our heroes in the world, and they do a great job, she has some hilarious lines and is essentially just a big dork like Ralph and all of us that love this movie. Most of the movie takes place in her world, Sugar Rush, which is essentially a glorified Mario Kart with goofy candy-themed racers – everyone in the world loves Mario Kart, right? If they don’t, I’m not sure if this is a world in which I want to live. So the obvious references to that game are here, and speaking of Sugar Rush, man, is this ever a pretty movie. The first word that comes to mind when I think of the animation in this movie is “delightful”, and it really is. Even in the dark, Halo-esque world of Hero’s Duty (of which the name is punned quite often, of course), the colors, soundtrack, everything in this movie is excellent.

Aside from the great cameos in this movie and the innumerable nods to previous games and game systems alike, the last great addition to this movie is the character voiced by the always great Jane Lynch, Calhoun. Of course she has to have a man’s name because she is the hardass commander of the squad in Hero’s Duty, who was also programmed with “the most tragic backstory ever” – which I won’t ruin for you, of course, because it’s hilarious. She’s excellent and all of her scenes are funny, and I’m particularly impressed by how close she comes to swearing in this and still making it sound kiddish. That is a GIFT, my friends. “Flattery don’t charge my batteries!” is a particular favorite.

What else to say on this one? I don’t need to go much into the plot, like I said, it’s a kids movie, of course it will have a happy ending, of course the two longing for acceptance will find it. But I dare you not to have a big ol’ smile on your face at the end of this one, and maybe even get a bit choked up at the sheer damn cuteness of it all. I often say movies like this don’t come along often, but hell, in this children’s movie renaissance we are in, we might have another excellent addition in a couple of months. Unlike a lot of the Hollywood tripe and rehash we get, that is a very, very good thing. Keep the kiddies coming to the theaters with grand stuff like this, and I’ll be right there along with them….well, after opening weekend when the theaters clear out of all those damn annoying kids and crying babies, at least.

The Verdict – 3-and-a-half-stars

Take This Waltz – An adult drama on par with Blue Valentine – directed by Sarah Polley

take-this-waltz2 Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t know about this one until one of my best friends told me about it, my “indie friend” actually who usually knows more about this stuff than I do (maybe I SHOULD get that subscription to Entertainment Weekly like she has…) and that was partially cuz she thought the guy in it was hot – no, it wasn’t Seth Rogen. Disappointed in myself because it’s directed AND written by Sarah Polley, who is wonderful, and you should know about. She directed and wrote the movie Away From Her back in 2006 as well, which was nominated for an Oscar, which shouldn’t surprise anyone because it was also co-written by Alice Munro, who has been an incredible short story and novel writer for a very long time – I linked you to a beginner’s education about her in case you wanted to learn something today, because she has written some amazing stuff. Look I’m even gonna teach you something new within the first paragraph, my blog is DIFFERENT, and you are privileged to be reading stuff from someone as cool as me. But anyways, so Sarah Polley has also been in some great movies – you’d probably know her most notably from the Dawn of The Dead remake a few years back – but she’s played in some incredible indies from years ago – ones like The Sweet Hereafter, which should DEFINITELY be seen before this one, and if you want something a little troubling, then The Secret Life of Words too, which also features that guy from the Shawshank Redemption in it. I could go on gushing about her and talking about other great movies she’s been in, but instead I’ll shut the hell up and get to the damn review, which I’m sure is what you are yelling at the computer screen by now.

images So this movie has the pretty much always great Michelle Williams, a bit of an indie darling these days – who knew that Jen from Dawson’s Creek would ever go this far, and become the most popular of the bunch by far? I sure didn’t. But she was great way back then as the slutty girl next door, and she just built upon that in every other movie she has been in, and normally if you see her name in the credits, you will probably have yourself a great movie – you might even have a classic that will change your opinion on what the word “movie” means, and may even enter your top 10 favorite movies of all time like it did mine – I’m talking about Blue Valentine there, by the way. And for god’s sake, if you haven’t seen that movie yet, turn this review off, don’t even bother with this movie first, and watch that one instead. It’s incredible. This movie is a sort of Blue Valentine light actually, yes it very much deserves its R rating again because of the quite graphic sex scenes we see toward the end, and also a bit of pointless full frontal nudity – but hey, everyone loves pointless full frontal nudity, right? I know I sure love me some. But the subject matter is decidedly less dark, and something that has been tackled many times before in lesser movies – the idea that a wife is unsatisfied in her marriage, and didn’t even really know she was until she meets another man. The other man comes in the form of Luke Kirby, who is actually a relatively unknown actor except for a lot of tv stuff and having played in that weird movie with the grown up Anakin Skywalker, but he definitely provides a more than adequate character for Michelle Williams’ Margot to fall in love with pretty much right off the bat. We have the obligatory “meet-cute” with them both on vacation, and then, of course, ending up sitting together on the plane. But because of these two great actors, we buy it pretty readily that these two have chemistry. We don’t have Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock up there for instance, we actually have GOOD actors. They share a cab together, and – surprise! – the big maguffin here is that he happens to live across the street from her, she just never knew it. Stupid, right? Don’t worry, you’ll still like the movie. Trust me.

take_this_waltz_3_630_pxlw So the husband is played by the hit-or-miss Seth Rogen, and I gotta tell ya, he’s in top form in this one. Like, this is one of his best roles. He plays this role in a subdued fashion, something he isn’t well known for at all. But man, does he ever nail it. Margot and Lou (Rogen) have what can only be classified as an…interesting marriage. They’ve been married for around five years, but it just seems like…they never really progressed as a couple from the start. As in like, they still do baby talk, they say strange disturbing things to each other to be “cute”, and they just seem like a couple that probably fell in love in high school and just sorta went with it from there, they never found anyone else so they figured what the hell, might as well stick together. They seem happy enough, just like any genuine couple you are likely to find in the world. This is why the movie works on a lot of levels – the relationships seem real. And, much like any other couple in the world, there is also, just maybe, that something missing behind the surface. That something missing comes in the form of Daniel (Kirby) for Margot.

take this waltz 2 Daniel is new and fresh to Margot – her relationship with Lou hasn’t necessarily gotten stale per se, but it just seems like its gotten boring, its in a rut, nothing interesting happens anymore. This idea is presented incredibly well by the fact that Lou is a writer of cookbooks…but he only cooks with chicken. They have some variation of chicken every night, and he often jokes that she’s probably been tired of chicken since they’ve been married. It’s a bit more than the chicken, Lou. Daniel is new and exciting, an artist, he’s all the things that Lou isn’t really – creative in a different way that involves more than just chicken, he’s in good shape because he is one of those rickshaw drivers you may or may not see anymore – I don’t really know because the only huge town I’ve been to is Chicago, but anyways, he does that for a living, which is also exciting, weird and different. I think I’ve established that he just brings something different to the table, which is exactly what Margot needs – or does she?

This is why the movie works and should absolutely be watched by anyone who loves the romance movies, but is tired of the same old crap. It’s real, much in the same vein that Blue Valentine is real. Margot questions herself throughout the entire movie, as well she should, and in a lesser movie, of course she would have banged the hell out of Daniel, and there would have been a big fight with Lou, etc – all the same crap we’ve seen before. Instead, like an adult, she puts herself through all the paces – is this what she wants? Will she be happy with Daniel? Is she happy ENOUGH with Lou? What the hell is it to be happy anyways? Of course, none of us really know, at least I sure as hell don’t think we do. Sarah Polley gets that, and nails these ideas down in her movie. And this why the movie is a great success, and you should watch it.

20047842.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx Now we’ll come to my only issue with this movie – and it is the absolutely criminal underutilization of Sarah Silverman, and a couple other supporting characters in this movie. The sidestory with Silverman isn’t just a tacked on addition to the movie to stretch it out to its almost two hour length – she represents exactly what Margot could become, Margot on the opposite end of the spectrum. Geraldine (Silverman) is also happily married, but there are some darker issues with her that come to light later in the movie, that actually I did not see coming, but man, was it ever good. I won’t spoil anything for you because like I said, you should definitely watch this movie, but at the end I think you will feel the same – that Margot could have very easily been Geraldine if she made different choices. Sarah Silverman, whose comedy I do not like and I never really have liked, is an actress to watch as well. I expected to hate her in this movie just like I hate her awful comedy, but man, she surprised me. So much so that I want to see what else she has done and will definitely check out anything else she is in that comes out after this, because she was fantastic in the few scenes she is in this movie. She just should have been in more of them.

So speaking of the ending – it is just as brilliant as this entire movie is. Like I said, nothing happens quickly in this, just like it doesn’t in real life with situations like this (well…usually, but that usually applies to someone who is actually just really unhappy in a marriage). This is an adult movie with adult issues, and the idea of happiness is front and center – did she make the right choice, will she be happy now with what she decides? Does she even know? You might not either, and that is the brilliance of this movie. I’d put this on my top movies of 2012 list as well, and you owe it to yourself to check this one if you want a different kind of romantic comedy – because yeah, it’s still one of those, some of the moments in this movie are downright hilarious. Another thing it has going for it.

The verdict – 3-and-a-half-stars